College students need a babysitter. Or at least that’s what the federal government thinks, if the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 is any indicator. The Credit CARD Act requires all credit card applicants under the age of 21 to have a co-signer above the age of 21 or to prove their ability to be responsible with a credit card. But the law doesn’t respect the autonomy of college-aged individuals as legal adults and hurts their financial independence. Though the CARD Act has its merits, the federal government should reevaluate the need to treat young adults like children.

President Barack Obama signed the Credit CARD Act into law on May 22 to protect American consumers from some of the unfair practices of credit card companies. The law was designed to help credit card holders make informed financial decisions by banning retroactive rate increases and fees and making credit card terms clearer. But Title III of the Credit CARD Act goes further, establishing barriers before young adults can obtain a credit card. The law mandates that credit card applicants under 21 have “a parent, guardian, or other qualified individual” co-sign their credit card application or prove their financial responsibility. If young adults decide to take full responsibility for their credit card and can’t provide documentation that convinces a credit card company they are financially stable, they will be required to complete a financial literacy course.

It’s admirable that the federal government has decided to protect consumers from credit card companies’ misleading tactics. The Credit CARD Act protects consumers from hidden fees and rate increases. It ensures that consumers can easily understand their credit card terms and decide if they are able to successfully use them. But this decision should be left to all consumers, not only those 21 and older.

Despite the good qualities of the Credit CARD Act, the restrictions laid out in Title III seem like a lot of work to obtain a card that makes a financially stable future possible. While it’s nice that the federal government wants to protect younger citizens, this clause is a major stumbling block for young adults who are ready for financial independence.

By making young adults jump through more hoops to obtain a credit card than older adults, the federal government is taking the view that college-aged people aren’t really adults yet. But as legally-recognized adults, 18-year-olds have most of the same rights and responsibilities as other adults. Also, many 18- to 20-year-olds are financially independent and work on their own. Many — especially college students and lower-income young adults — don’t have easy access to a financially stable co-signer, a full bank account or time to complete a financial literacy course. But they still need the benefits of a credit card, like convenient purchases and establishing good credit history.

Instead of allowing young adults the freedom they need to gain financial stability, the federal government seems committed to mollycoddling them. At some point, the federal government needs to realize that college students aren’t kids anymore and that they need to learn to take care of themselves.

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